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A Revealing Series of Events

I didn’t think the Rutgers University women’s basketball team needed to go public. After all, why dignify nationally syndicated radio host Don Imus’s remark with a response? But I’m so glad they did, because they humanized this news event and presented an image that was in stark contrast to his “nappy-headed hos” comment.

 

And although MSNBC and CBS Radio say their decision to fire him was ultimately based on the conversations that took place within their respective organizations — with employees voicing their displeasure over Imus’s remark and his past track record — it was clear to me while listening to senior officials at both organizations talk about the Rutgers press conference that they were moved by what the young women had to say.

 

 Compounded by the fact that major advertisers yanked their sponsorship from Imus’s radio show, I imagine it became much more difficult for these media executives to reconcile Imus’s words with the images of these student-athletes, who were aspiring doctors and lawyers; who had been class valedictorians; who were maintaining impressive GPAs all while playing college basketball.

 

In follow-up news reports, the women were referred to as the “best of the best,” “the best that America has to offer,” and so on. It’s a shame that it took this incident for the media and society to recognize that. I can only hope that they also recognize that there are many more young Black men and women who are doing amazing things on college campuses all across this country. This is one of the reasons that Diverse, formerly Black Issues In Higher Education, was launched more than 20 years ago — to report on the experiences of and to present images of Blacks and minorities different than what is usually portrayed or all together left out of mainstream media reports. There’s so much more to talk about surrounding this incident, which catapulted issues of race, gender, the media and higher education into the public forum. And rest assured, we will explore all of the angles in upcoming editions.

 

As you know, over the past few months we have been reporting on the fallout over the Duke lacrosse scandal as it involved and affected minority faculty. Just recently, all criminal charges against the three former players were dropped. But, said Robert Thompson, a professor of popular culture at Syracuse University in an interview with USA Today, the case’s ending shouldn’t lull people into believing all is well on college campuses. “This showed us an underbelly of college life,” he said. One of the now exonerated players, Reade Seligmann, said the case “opened my eyes up to a tragic world of injustice I never knew existed.” In an interview with NBC’s “Today Show,” he acknowledged that in most cases it is minorities who are on the receiving end of the justice system’s sometimes unfair treatment.

As we were going to press, the details of the horrible tragedy that befell Virginia Tech on April 16 were still unfolding. We keep in our thoughts and prayers the promising scholars and students whose lives were tragically and senselessly cut short that day. Everyone at Diverse offers their condolences to the university community and to the families and friends of the victims.

 

Hilary Hurd Anyaso
Editor
Diverse, Issues in Higher Education

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